5 Things Every Piano Teacher Needs to Know About Jazz

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Connections between the music of the United States and Claude Debussy

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It has been more than one hundred years since Claude Debussy was composing masterpieces that were part of a general revolutionary movement that challenged European musical traditions. Debussy was looking for ways to distinguish himself as unique and French, while at the same time using sources from other countries. He found inspiration in varied an...
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Bringing it Home

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For a pianist without high-level management, organizing a tour can feel like an impossible undertaking. There are many reasons why touring is harder than ever before: venues for classical and jazz music have been shuttering their doors all over the country, audiences are far from guaranteed even at the most reputable venues, most major papers no lo...
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What jazz contributes to the classical pianist

There is a long tradition of teaching quality classical piano in Canada. There are also a myriad of support systems to teach theory and written scores in a variety of contemporary styles. Then there's jazz. Some teachers like it and some don't. Others don't feel knowledgeable enough to include it in their studios. For many teachers it is a big unkn...
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Introductions

A good musical introduction creates anticipation for the listener by suggesting the key and style of a tune about to be played.​Ready? Go! The easiest way to set up a tune is to play a V7 intro chord. This works because it takes advantage of our expectations about functional harmony. Since most tunes begin with the I chord, a V7 chord pla...
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Interpreting jazz accents

Accents are a fascinating thing. I mean the kind that keep Americans from understanding folks from across the pond and vice versa. I'll never forget landing at the Edinburgh, Scotland, airport and hailing a cab to my hotel. The cabbie said something to me that sounded vaguely like a phrase I should understand. It might as well have been Martian, fo...
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All’s well that ends well

Jazz pianists face innumerable decisions when playing a song from the American Songbook. Every time we perform a song by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, or Duke Ellington, we address questions aboutkey (we are not obliged to play the tune in its original key);tempo (should it be slow, medium, fast, or free); rhythmic background (shall we try swi...
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Diminished seventh chords, and, pardon the expression, half-diminished seventh chords in jazz and popular music

Diminished seventh chordsIn jazz and popular music, diminished chords are invariably played as four-note chords, rather than triads, whether the chord symbol says Cdim (C °) or Cdim7 (C ° 7).A diminished seventh chord consists of a diminished triad plus a diminished seventh above the root of the triad: ​However, enharmonic spellings are fre-qu...
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Playing Contemporary Pop

A piece of music can be centered around a key note, but have less of a feeling of a "western" chord progression. Contemporary pop pieces often use ambiguous chords and their harmonic structures can be based on modes rather than scales.If you start with a scale of C, you can build modes on each note of the scale, like this: Each ...
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How do you create solo piano arrangements from a fake book?

​Today's jazz pianists learn to play within many different contexts. They might find themselves in a big band, a combo, or by themselves as keyboard soloists. As soloists, they must supply the harmony, rhythm, and melody while only being given a lead sheet version of a song as a guide. At the professional level, this skill can be quite complex. How...
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Chord Substitution

One thing that has always drawn me to jazz is the harmony. It is fascinating to hear how a single chord change can define one artist's interpretation of Autumn Leaves or Night and Day from another artist's interpretation. Applied judiciously, these harmonic variations will add touches of color to your own arranging and performing.When one chord is ...
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Progressive progressions

​Something wonderful happened to me this year: I was assigned a new student, Chris (not his or her real name), who is a very talented pianist, and who studied with a fine teacher. Chris always arrives at every lesson motivated, eager, and excited, but even more fascinating is Chris' desire to start each lesson with scales! Chris asks me for a key, ...
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Understanding the jazz language

If you are interested in becoming an orchestrator, there is no better teacher than the music itself. Find an orchestral score and recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker: listen, read, and learn! In so doing, you are making a connection between the written page and how it translates into sound.If you want to become a better jazz musician, a...
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ii7 - V7 - Imaj7: An essential building block of jazz harmony

from the series: It's Got That Swing: Jazz & Pop Geoffrey Haydon, Editor  There are many benefits to including jazz in a student's curriculum of piano study- not the least of which is an increasing understanding of harmony. Jazz harmony uses the European classical tradition as a point of departure. It builds harmonies using the tradit...
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Seventh heaven and beyond

from the series: ​It's Got That Swing: Jazz & Pop Phillip Keveren, EditorThe seventh chord serves Western music well in its "dominant" role. What would the "Hallelujah Chorus" be without it? No self-respecting symphony could find its way home without the harmonic tension and release of the dominant-tonic relationship. However, the possibil...
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Gershwin's Blue Lullaby

from the series: ​​It's Got That Swing: Jazz & Pop Tony Caramia, EditorGeorge Gershwin's rhythms, wonderful melodies, and unmistakable American harmonies continue to fascinate listeners and performers. Porgy and Bess is a mainstay of opera companies around the world. In a recent search, YouTube offered more than 500 videos of Rhapsody...
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What Important Elements of Jazz Are Appropriate for Early-Level Students?

The wording of this question emerged after long stares at a blank computer screen- then typing, cutting, typing, pasting, typing, Thesaurus, cutting and pasting, and repeating the whole process over again. The question kept raising more questions-what is Jazz? Is it possible to teach any important elements of this complex m...
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